Behind the Scenes - World of Horses
Hi Noxcrew Community!
As promised, I’m starting a series of mini behind the scenes for you all to enjoy while we work on DvD and get prepped for the winter months (maybe I should call it ‘Showcase September’ or something silly like that)
To kick things off, I’m looking back at what might be considered a black sheep in the Noxcrew creative roster, World of Horses, to see what inspired something so different from our usual style and how we approached creating the world.
See you next week!
Back in 2017, Noxcrew released what may be considered a strange addition to our back catalogue, World of Horses, a survival spawn/showcase map which gave players a huge open world to explore but with a specific focus on Minecraft’s horse mechanics.
Developed and released over the frantic 2017 holiday period, World of Horses can be seen as little more than an excuse to tug at established conventions and give every little girl the Minecraft pony they always wanted for Christmas. However, World of Horses actually has a surprising legacy as its inspiration, with the release date being by coincidence rather than by design.
Before he became the Noxcrew survival server’s beloved lawyer/ health and safety adviser, Avondale was part of another role play server with his friends, where he ran a ranch. Creating a realistic stable to care for Minecraft’s newly added horses and renting them out to his friends became a major part of Avondale’s Minecraft survival experience and something he wanted to replicate with the Noxcrew.
Upon hearing the idea, we all felt like it would be interesting to try and create a world centred this often underappreciated part of Minecraft survival and role play somewhere down the line. It was just a case of when we could fit it in to our increasingly hectic schedule.
It just so happened that, in the lead up to the Christmas period we found our opportunity. Dropper of Horrors, which had been planned as a Halloween map, was going through major technical difficulties. Issues with certain entities and Bedrock itself were causing significant lag spikes during drops, something you really don’t want in a dropper map, and was slowing down our planned production schedule. To further complicate matters, our redstoners were tied up trying to fix this strange mess and, as such, were unable to start working on the mechanics for our proposed holiday content.
This meant we need to start work on a project that the builders could work on without needing too much input from both the redstoners and the artists. World of Horses (codename ‘Whales of Hungary’) was already on our radar as a potential project for 2018 and with it being pitched as a survival spawn with an emphasis on stables rather than buildings, the map seemed to be a simple ‘build and done’ sort of project, perfect to keep the ball rolling while Dropper was being fixed up. But of course, Noxcrew just can’t do simple projects, we always have to take it a step further.
Rather than create a world with a single aesthetic and leave it at that, we wanted to create a world that was rich with detail, with different biomes to explore and interesting sites to discover. These differing biomes also gave us the opportunity to create more than one set of stables and highlight a wider range of architectural styles one can adopt when creating horse ranches, from simplistic rural stables, to grand show-houses.
These styles, as most of our builds tend to be, were designed to match the biomes and environments that they reside in, using the materials found around the area in the construction of the stables and using historical or real world buildings from similar areas to inspire the designs.
Take, for example, Sunset Stables, found in the desert realm. Inspired by the ranches of El Paso and New Mexico during the Wild West of the USA, the stables are built primarily out of sandstone and red or brown terracotta, both found in desert areas and match the colour scheme of the area around them. The inclusion of dark wood fences and steps serve as a contrast to the bright colours and come from the badlands and dead trees on the outer edges of the savannah area.
We doubled down on this wild west aesthetic by adding minor details like a cow farm to simulate the herds that cowboys would have maintained and protected. There is also a campsite at the front of the property, giving the ranchers, who were often hired on an ‘as-needed’ basis to look after the cattle, a place to sleep and relax after working the farm, with these hired hands often not allowed to stay in the stable with the horses during those rough and ready days.
In contrast, Blackmane Manor, set on the precipice of a ravine surrounded by dark oak trees, has a more ominous colour palate. Drawing from its gloomier, more isolated surroundings, the stables uses the predominantly darker tones of purples and greens from the dark oak trees and podzol in the surrounding area as well as brick, rather than stone, to create a more solid structure, more closed off and reclusive than the open airiness of Sunset Stables.
This helped us decide on a more Victorian architectural style for the building, echoing the Gothic traditions found in iconic movies such as Hammer Horror’s ‘Dracula’ or ‘Nosferatu’ to invoke a horror based atmosphere. With this leaning towards the macabre, it stood to reason to use manor to house the more fantastical, less attractive horses in Minecraft such as the zombie and skeleton horses. Never one to do things by halves, there is also a spooky looking tree in the centre of Blackmane Manor, with a glowing face to re-enforce the manor’s supernatural leanings, as well as its’ connection to the forest around it.
It wasn’t just the design of the stables that were inspired by the environment. Throughout the world, you can find racetracks themed around the stables that they are associated with. Not only are these tracks a beautiful addition to the world but also offer a multiplayer element to Minecraft horses. Rather than pick a horse and ride it everywhere, offering a competitive element helps to organically interest players in breeding and improving their steeds to best match the stables track, be it speed or jumping ability.
In addition to this we also added paths that take you on different routes between the four stables to show off exciting features in the world, such as the aforementioned ravine, waterfalls and villages that players can explore to gather resources for their bases, or take over to create their own survival homes, a final nod to the map’s survival server heritage.
In a way, World of Horses became our love letter to survival play, more so, I think, than any of our other Survival spawns. By focusing on an often overlooked area of survival play, it helped us work out ideas of what could be done with the mechanic itself, beyond creating pretty stables for them to stay in. It allowed us to develop tracks to test player skills, offer detours to explore the area and create a beautiful and varied world without making it feel too large and empty. With a bigger world we could organically bring in different areas, different styles and different bases for players to choose and build with as they saw fit, rather than being stuck with one theme or style throughout their gameplay experience. All this, while still honouring our Minecraft history and keeping true to our unique Noxcrew style of creating.
I hope you’ve found this small glimpse into World of Horses interesting. Let me know what other projects you'd like me to look into next!